Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blacksmithing: How to Get Started

Blacksmithing, Ideas for Getting Started
© 2011 Canis Dirus and The Wolf and Moon™

Before you get excited, this won't have any pictures of me doing any kind of smithing. As much as I would like to get back into researching methodologies and getting burned and sweaty in front of the forge, this discussion stems from a comment I left on Terran Marks' blog DIY Blacksmithing. He has a post, Makeshift Anvils, and I commented on a method used by bladesmiths to make a serviceable anvil.

I wrote: "Another option is the scrap metal yard. Search for a piece of 6X steel as long as you can safely handle... I intend to do a tutorial on the subject when I get home. (I'm in Afghanistan right now...)Too many people have the potential skills to do constructive work, but no materials or wherewithal to do it with."

This is a line of thought that has been with me for some time now. There are young men and women out there that have the knack or potential to do something creative, something positive, if only they had the tools to exercise that potential.

We are a society that discards so much material, wastes it because it is easier (and cheaper!) to toss it away, than it is to recycle it. At construction sites, (the few there are...) the amount of material that is left over as cutoffs, damaged, or excess is phenomenal.

Let's make a list of left over material that you can likely pick up for the asking.

Rebar can be forged into any number of things. Granted, there is no telling what the carbon content is exactly, but most of it will harden to a serviceable level. The carbon range can be extrapolated or estimated  from the sparks. Anvil stakes, spikes, and tool handles come to mind as potential uses. Long pieces of #8 can be forged into tongs, and if you happen to bump into the really big stuff, it can be forged into hardies and other chunky tool items.

Scrap lumber is useful not only as lumber, but the shortest cutoffs are easily made into charcoal. A retort is easily constructed from either 30 or 55 gallon drums.

Busted up Concrete Masonry Units or Block, can be used as filler when you've dug your foundation's footers and are laying in some gravel before you tamp it level. Smash it up with a hammer one evening, and you will save hundreds of dollars in costs with that alone.

Scrap metal yards have a cornucopia of steel items ready to be turned into something useful. Large pieces of 6 inch square or round steel are pretty common. A length of that will make a better than serviceable anvil once ground or machined flat. It will be a while, but sometime in the future I will be posting on creating an anvil from a chunk of scrap 4140.

While you're there you might find a bar of 1.5 inch square material that can also be turned into other tooling.

Yard sales will always produce large numbers of sledges and ball peen hammers. If you are fortuitous, you may also find cross peens and straight peens.

There are dozens of references and forums that describe how to put together a forge from little more than left overs and castaways. Japanese style box bellows are easily constructed by anyone with a modicum of woodworking ability, and for those that have the space, a set of bellows can also be constructed. Hair dryers and vacuum cleaner blowers are used frequently by smiths everywhere.

Refractory for your forge can be made from Portland cement (1.5 parts), silica sand (2 parts), perlite (1.5 parts) and plain kitty litter (2 parts). All common items but likely to have to be purchased.

Again, it is just a matter of looking around at the things we waste and discard, and putting them back to use.

Remember, there is a certain satisfaction from doing what you love to do, as opposed to doing what you think you must. Take it from me, it is far better in the long run to work at something you love, that way you will never work a day in your life!

If any of my readers are blacksmiths, what are your opinions on the subject? How can an amateur set himself up at a minimum of expense?

Post Tenebras, Lux
Dirus Canis
The Wolf and Moon